SCRANTON, May 14, 2024 – State Senator Katie Muth (D-Chester/Montgomery/Berks), chair of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Policy Committee, and state Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, chair of the Pennsylvania House Democratic Policy Committee, today joined Sen. Marty Flynn (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne) and Rep. Bridget Kosierowski (D-Lackawanna) in Scranton to co-host a public hearing focusing on lack of access to healthcare in communities across Pennsylvania.

“The closure of hospitals across the state has dramatically increased over the last several years, leaving many without nearby access to emergency rooms, maternity care services and specialist providers,” Muth said. “Access to quality, timely healthcare is a human right and continuing the for-profit health care business model is not sustainable or equitable. We need a system overhaul that ensures patient-centered care, not for-profit care.”

The hearing, held at Lackawanna County in downtown Scranton, featured discussion on the crisis caused by hospital closures across the Commonwealth. According to statistics provided by the Pennsylvania Health Access Network, there were 33 hospital closures in Pennsylvania during the past 20 years, including 15 in just the past five years.

“This is not an issue that’s unique to just one area. We’re seeing health care deserts pop up across the Commonwealth,” Bizzarro said. “It’s past time we work to make sure all Pennsylvanians have fair and equal access to health care, and it starts with addressing the workforce shortage and other issues causing hospital closures.” 

A 2023 report by the Pennsylvania Department of Health concluded that barriers to healthcare are often determined by the location where a person resides. Approximately 2 million Pennsylvania residents live in areas designated as dental or mental healthcare Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) and 500,000 lived in primary care HPSAs in 2022.

“Today’s policy hearing at Lackawanna College brought crucial attention to the dire state of healthcare in Pennsylvania,” Flynn added. “As we discussed the alarming trend of hospital closures and soaring healthcare costs, it became evident that too many Pennsylvanians are being left without the vital care they require. It’s imperative that we take action now to guarantee access to quality healthcare for all citizens.”

According to testimony at the hearing, Pennsylvania will need an estimated 1,000 or more additional primary care physicians within the next six years. A projection by Mercer found that by 2026, Pennsylvania will have the largest shortfall of registered nurses in the nation (20,345) and the third largest shortfalls of mental health professionals (6,330) and nursing support staff (277,711). 

“As a nurse, I saw too many patients arrive at our hospital with advanced disease because they didn’t have access to preventable care earlier. We have to fix this because we deserve better here in the Commonwealth,” Kosierowski added. “We have many challenges to work through, but I’m confident we can find solutions and reduce healthcare deserts in Pennsylvania.”

Two bills have been introduced in the Senate to address the issues of hospital closures. Senate Bill 83, introduced by Senator Muth, would require approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Health before a hospital or hospital system can be purchased. Senate Bill 83 would also require that the Department of Health reviews applications, holds public hearings, and prepares impact statements. It would also require price transparency from hospitals or hospital systems so that patients have full access to the costs of items and services provided. 

A second bill, Senate Bill 548 introduced by Sen. Tim Kearney (D-Delaware), would give the Attorney General the ability to review and challenge hospital and nursing home mergers, acquisitions, dividend recapitalizations, and other critical transactions that enrich shareholders but threaten the public interest in access to quality care. 

“The healthcare industry is undergoing a drawn-out transformation that is leaving millions of Pennsylvanians without access to quality care,” Kearney added. “Lawmakers need to put protections like my bill, SB548, in place to prevent healthcare consolidation that is at the root of service cuts, closures, and rising prices.”

Other participants in the hearing included Dr. Tammy Torres, President, Lehigh Valley Hospital Hazleton; Patrick Keenan, Director of Policy & Partnership, Pennsylvania Health Access Network; and state Reps. Kyle Mullins (D-Lackawanna), Kyle Donahue (D-Lackawanna), Dan Williams (D-Chester), Leanne Krueger (D-Delaware), and Jessica Benham (D-Allegheny).

For more information on this policy hearing and to access all submitted testimony and a full recording of today’s hearing, visit